Building a Successful Relationship in the Home and Beyond

When I was fourteen, I watched my parent’s go through a hostile divorce. Instead of it making me cynical towards love, it made me believe in it even more. My parent’s relationship was just a bad example to learn from. And after a couple dramatic trial runs of my own (which are a stories for another time), I found Ty.

He was just as nerdy and weird as me, so naturally we hit it off right away. Our opposite traits balanced each other out, and over time we discovered we were much more alike than previously thought. My relationship with him is the strongest thing in my life, and for that I am very grateful. I know not everyone is so fortunate. 

The first nine months of our relationship were spent apart. I was still in Alaska while he had moved to North Carolina. During this time we went to Europe. After spending a whole month with him under some very stressful situations, it was confirmed that I could handle living with this person. We worked together well. Since then, I’ve learned a lot of things about living with a significant other. I think we all understand the significance of having a happy and healthy home life, so I’d like to share what I’ve learned so far.

The first thing I learned is that you cannot treat all the time spent together as quality time. You’re living together now. There will be chores to do. Petty arguments will arise. You’ll each want your own space and time. Money will be an issue. All of these things are okay, given there is constructive, open communication.

First, don’t be afraid to tell them how you feel. Tell them right away when you’re bothered by something they do.

If you don’t, they will assume everything is okay, and keep doing whatever it is. This will only serve to build up resentment inside you, and will come out at the wrong moment. When this happens, they will be confused, wondering why you never said anything before. Remember, no matter how strong a connection, nobody is a mind-reader.

Pick your battles wisely.

There are little things Ty does that annoys me, like forgetting to close the refrigerator door, and the way he hangs up towels. I have to remind myself to let these things go – at least he hangs up his towel and doesn’t leave it on the floor. Besides, these things say more about me being controlling than it does about him just being himself. Instead, I let him know what really bothers me and why. He knows I don’t like it when he spends an excessive amount of time on his phone/computer, or when he smokes the Juul. Both these things are easily explained.

Have them help you with chores. You’re not his maid, and he’s not your butler.  Being nice is one thing, but having expectations is another.

Challenge each other. Grow together by setting goals. Be encouraging, and offer constructive criticism when needed.

Don’t take each other for granted.

I’ve taken people for granted before in the past. It’s one of my biggest regrets, since what followed was always shitty. With Ty, it’s easier not to because all I have to do is remember when we were four time zones apart. I missed him terribly all the time. If you’ve never done long distance before, there’s a trick to put your appreciation into perspective. It’s pretty morbid, but it works. Just imagine if they were to die.

Never go to bed angry. Never.

Give each other space to cool off. I like to on walks. Sometimes I’ll grit my teeth and ask him to come with me – fresh air does wonders to diffuse anger. Sending each other pictures of fond memories together is another good tactic. It helps to remind each other what’s really important.

Let go of your pride and admit when you are wrong. Don’t be above apologizing first.

The most important part of conflict resolution is to never look at it as you verses him (or her). It’s always the both of you verses the problem. By putting it into this perspective, finding a solution becomes a learning experience – not an outlet the pass blame or stimulate guilt. If you’re upset because they forgot to do something they promised they would, think about finding ways to help them remember. Make to do lists. Set reminders on your phone. Take gingko biloba.

Be open about finances!

This is the most important component for having a successful relationship. The majority of divorces are due to financial issues, and the leading cause for women staying in unhealthy/abusive relationships is financial dependence. Most couple don’t even tell each other about their financial situation until after they’re married. This is the worst mistake you can make.

Being open about finances relates directly to honesty. In my previous post, “Why I Despise Social Media,” I talked about how people flaunt false presumptions of wealth. The same concept applies for dating in a consumer society. Money often offers the illusion of love, but if that illusion crumbles, the love might as well. When I first met Ty, he was basically living out of his car. There was no illusion of wealth, because he was honest about his situation. Financial honestly implies accountability, and if there is a lack of one, there is a lack of both.

I know his debt, credit score, savings, and income, and he knows mine. We have a spreadsheet to keep track of all expenses. While money doesn’t buy happiness, it certainly buys things that make life easier. Like having the bills paid. Like eating. One of our biggest goals is to someday achieve financial freedom, but until that day comes, no transaction goes undocumented.

Relationships are a give and take, but it’s rarely 50-50. Sometimes one person will pull more weight than the other. One day it could be 60-40, the next it might be 70-30. When we went to Europe, I took care of us when his cards stopped working. I was happy to do so, because I know he’d do the same for me. The give and take extends beyond monetary value. I wouldn’t be in the position I am now if it wasn’t for Ty. I’ve been able to focus wholeheartedly on my writing, thanks to his support and belief in me. He spoils me with encouragement.

Living off of one paycheck has been a challenge. But just like with long distance, being broke together has laid another solid foundation to our relationship. They key lies in acknowledging happiness and temporary situations. All the other tricks, like communication and accountability, only work if they are sustained. 

If you’ve been fortunate enough to find someone who you click with, appreciate them and treat them well. Having a successful relationship in the home will beget positivity in other aspects of life. The more successful relationships you have, the better person you’ll become. The more better people there are in the world, the better the world will be. After all, it’s the micro that makes up the macro.

The faces that make the story: him and I.

Why I Despise Social Media

I despise social media. I always have. My dislike for it extends from my own insecurities, though my reasoning is justifiable. I wanted to share my opinion because technology is creating a revolution, but in order for it be beneficial, we need to be more authentic. Social media clearly has advantages: it allows countless people to promote their work freely and remotely. It gives us widespread and instant access to resources and each other.  In a sense, it’s made people into resources. After all, it’s who you know, not what you know.

I agree and disagree with that statement.  I would not be in the position I am in today if it were not for the people I knew.  However, what I know has still played a major roll. It has allowed me to not criticize myself so harshly when I’m on social media, which brings me to why I despise it:

Social media is a façade.

I compare it to my impression of New York City. I mentioned in my previous post, ‘Manifesting Iceland,’ that I had a twenty something hour layover in New York. Ty and I killed a lot of time people watching in Manhattan. Just about every man was a derivative of the other: same suit, same leather loafers, same briefcase. I made some comment about being in the midst of successful business people (note I say ‘man’ because with men it was easier to spot uniformity – the women around us were dressed too diversely to make any generalizations).

Ty laughed in my face. “Look again.” He said. “Their walking around in this horrible heat. You can see the wrinkles in the backs of their shirts. And their shoes aren’t that nice.”

In addition to studying political science and economics, Ty has a thing for shoes.

“So?” I asked.

“They’re just workers.” He explained. “They’re not making any real money.  It’s all spent to uphold an image that they’re some hotshot in Manhattan. The people with real money aren’t wearing suits because they don’t have to impress anyone. The people with real money have their shirts pressed.  And they’ll go immediately from the building into a car that’s waiting for them. Don’t let images fool you.”

The same applies for social media. Don’t let someone else’s apparent wealth fool you.

Social media Influencers are actually advised to promote themselves as richer or more famous than they actually are. By doing so, they attract more engagement. Why? Because who wants to engage with just some person trying to make it like everyone else? It can be boiled down to basic psychology. By promoting ourselves as more online than we are in reality we satisfy the natural urge to stroke our egos. Studies show that positive self-reinforcement on social media activates the medial prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain identified with self-definition. In extreme cases, it can become an addiction and manifest into narcissism.

It’s no surprise that social media makes people feel insecure, anxious, or envious. It’s for these reasons I’ve fallen behind in the social media game compared to my peers. When Instagram and Facebook became popular, I was in middle school. I was weird, really weird, and an outcast. I didn’t want to be judged by my peers online as well.

My argument is mostly based around Instagram. I think we all know Facebook is the epitome of legitimate fake news, and notorious for people promoting their opinions as facts. Instagram is definitely more artsy, and allows people to metaphorically – and literally – filter their lives.

To reiterate my point, I’ll share an instance that happened to me recently on Instagram.

I reposted something from @KeepOnLearning about the benefits of investing. I’ve recently been getting into investing – it comes with the territory when you’re dating an economics major.

The comments I received surprised me. They all said the same thing: that the person who spent $650 on a vacation gained memories, and was therefore better off than the person who invested. I was confused to hear this. Of course memories are priceless.  I understand that very well – I absolutely adore traveling. But that doesn’t mean the person who invested will never travel. That doesn’t mean the person who invested will have to wait until their old to travel. All that means is that the person who invested now can spend $650 and still have $700 left.

But what I think it most important about this post is that you shouldn’t take what you see at face value.  I have to tell myself this when I feel like my posts don’t make me look pretty enough. Or that I haven’t done enough, or am doing enough, or am becoming enough. That’s fucked up. I can’t rightfully compare myself to something I don’t know for certain to be anything more than a façade.

I contend that we need to post more authentic things. We should challenge ourselves to be more upfront about our failures and our shortcomings. I believe that this will incline us to support each other more. I want people to travel – I believe the best gift of all is seeing the world and connecting with it. But that doesn’t mean it should cost us our savings. That doesn’t mean it should cost us our honesty. There’s ways to enhance both.

Let’s utilize social media for all that’s its good for: connecting to each other and utilizing resources. Let’s add a little more balance to our feed.  Let’s let each other know it’s okay to be honest, sad, afraid, and insecure. Let’s let each other know it’s okay to have emotions and imperfections. Let’s relate to each other. What’s something you struggle with? What’s something you’re afraid to say?

Manifesting Iceland

Being the geology nerd that I am (I collect beautiful minerals as a hobby), I have always had a fascination with Iceland.  It is the only place where the Mid Atlantic Ridge rises above sea level, making the land made out of basalt (lava rock), and not granite, as other continental land masses are.  Essentially, the seafloor is exposed. Iceland also sits right in the middle of two great tectonic plates; the Eurasian and North American. This makes it a hot spot for volcanic and geothermal activity.  Hence, the world famous Blue Lagoon.

I was fortunate enough to have visited this extraordinary island on my recent European tour.  My time there was is a testimony that dreams come true…though not always in the most convenient way.  The cliche ‘be careful what you wish for’ is true, and my experience in Iceland proves it.

I was wasting time in the sweltering heat on my twenty hour layover in New York to Paris when I got an alert from the airline on my phone. I had to read it several times over to make sure it was really saying that the airline had cancelled my flight.

“What the hell?” I asked my companion, Ty.  We decided to go to Newark immediately, where it was confirmed that yes, our flight had been cancelled. Our only option was to wait three days for another flight to Paris that was within our budget. I was pissed.  We only had five days in Paris before we were supposed to go to Moscow. There had to be another option! We searched the internet, searching for cheap flights overseas as soon as possible.

There was a flight leaving the next night to Paris with a twenty-eight hour layover in Reykjavik.  I looked at Ty and Ty looked at me.

“I have always wanted to go to Iceland.” I said.

He smiled.  “And now we are.”

I shook my head, laughing.  “I never thought it would happen like this.”

I learned two important lessons here.  The first is that with traveling, unpleasant situations will undoubtedly arise.  And when they do, the only option is to push through. Find a solution. Our solution was to go to Iceland.  The second is that manifesting –i.e, The Law of Attraction – works. You will get what you wish for, if you wish for it with impeccable passion. One word of advice is to be more specific in what you wish for.  I wish I’d been a bit more specific about Iceland instead of just “I want to go to Iceland someday.” I probably could have saved myself a lot of money and time, though in retrospect it was a wonderful surprise.

Iceland vs. Alaska: From a Northerners Perspective

I grew up in Anchorage, Alaska.  I am well accustomed to the cold and the feeling of isolation that comes with living at northern longitudes.  Though continental, Alaska feels like it could be an island, just like Iceland. The biggest differences are of course the culture and the landscape.

The first thing that struck me about Iceland was how flat it was.  In Anchorage, the mountains tower over the city as far as the eye can see, and beyond. But from the Keflavik International Airport, the only mountains were far in the distance.  Small hills protruded up from the flat ground, all made up of dark, rocky basalt. There were no trees, only moss that grew on top of the basalt and beautiful purple flowers that I discovered to be Alaskan Lupine.

Reykjavik is considerably more northern than Anchorage; and therefore considerably closer to the Arctic Circle.  The air was crisper and colder in the middle of June than it was in Anchorage. I was glad I had decided to pack a scarf and a summer jacket.  

The biggest similarity I saw between Iceland and Alaska was the sky.  This may sound strange, so let me elaborate. On a nice day, the sky in Alaska is the purest color of blue I have ever seen.  It’s lighter on the horizon, but as you expand your gaze upward, the deeper the blue gets. There’s a certain curvateous effect. I’ve noticed over the years that when I travel south, the sky looks flat – a plain plane of blue. It’s an interesting phenomenon.  Iceland had the same sky as Alaska, and equally breathtaking sunsets. Pinks, purples, and oranges tie-dyed the sky.

From the Keflavik International Airport it is a twenty minute bus drive from the Blue Lagoon and an hour to Reykjavik. We booked a trip from the airport to the lagoon, and from the lagoon to Reykjavik on Reykjavik Excursions. The whole thing cost me about $100 (Iceland doesn’t use the euro, it uses the krona, which is stronger than the dollar), but it was absolutely worth it. Another piece of advice: book a reservation with the Blue Lagoon!

The Blue Lagoon is as beautiful as it is in pictures on the internet, but I never realized it was owned by a luxury hotel and not a public place. Ty and I had already put on our bathing suits under our clothes, ready to relax after our stressful experience in New York, when we were informed that  entrance into the lagoon was by reservation only, and $70 each. But Ty had a different idea.

“The patio goes right up to the water!” he whispered in my ear.  “Follow me!”

He lead me to the patio and peeled off his clothes.  I did the same, goosebumps pricking my skin in the chilly breeze.  Steam rose off the clear, ice blue water of the lagoon. It was decently busy with people laughing as they smeared mud over their  bodies. I hurried into the water, but just as I submerged myself into the pleasant, warm water, I heard Ty call my name. One of the staff workers was standing next to him, frowning at me.

“Wristbands?” she asked. I did not have a wristband.  

So if you ever find yourself in Iceland, don’t try to sneak into the Blue Lagoon.  They will be on you like hawks. I spent the next half hour shivering on the patio while waiting for my wet bathing suit to dry.  

My biggest complaint against Anchorage is its culture.  I have always found it a shame that such a uniquely beautiful place has been so Americanized.  I contend it is not healthy for the residents. The limited hours of daylight in the winter make it extremely hard to get up and go about our days like we are in any other American city. Wintertime darkness and cold play a big role in northerners lives.  It should be embraced as a foundation to build a culture on, not something to work around. Alaska has a uniformity to it that does not do justice to the land. The typical suburban sprawl, franchines, chains, and fashion brands that make up the rest of the United States can be found in Alaska.

Reykjavik was much more unique. Their buildings were rustic, colorful, and nestled together in the city center.  I appreciated the small businesses and local stores that sold items and services appropriate to the climate. In Reykjavik, it felt like living in the far north was something that was truly valued.

“Look how well our misfortune treated us.”  Ty said. I couldn’t have agreed more.

Welcome, Strangers

Welcome, reader, whoever you are.  This blog will largely consist of anything relating to travel, health, and spirituality.  Additionally, you can expect to see original poems, essays, and short stories. But before I begin, I would like to introduce myself.  

My name is Willow Noelle.  I am a writer by instinct, trade, and passion. I have an incurable case of wanderlust, and am a self-proclaimed hippy at heart. I’ve been wearing Birkenstocks since before they were trendy, and believe in the power of plants from green smoothies to psychoactives. Furthermore, I believe in exposing things for what they really are, and getting to the bottom of what it means to be human. I want to know why people struggle, and if it’s really necessary.

Three months ago I moved from my hometown of Anchorage, Alaska, to Charlotte, North Carolina.  This move consisted of dropping out of university for that life changing English degree, and quitting my jobs. It consisted of me having to ask myself what my definitions of happiness and success was. My answer didn’t coincide with the traditional route of career building, something I think is a dying field anyway. Instead, it forced me to follow my heart in order to focus on what I love most. It was a daunting feat, but has proved to be worthwhile.

 My motive for this blog is to share my work, since creating without sharing is being idle.  I have been idle for far too long.  My answer to happiness and success is to inspire people by creating art out of words, but to do that I need to get over my inexplicable fear of being exposed.  This blog will be a growing experience for me, and hopefully something inspiring and entertaining for you.  

I’ll try to take you places with my words and tell you things you’ve never known.  I’ll write about what I am most passionate about, in hopes that you might relate. I don’t know what type of blog this will be; but for now, it will just be me.